The introduction of new systems within an organisation invariably causes changes across a large number of areas, particularly to processes, procedures, documentation and working practices. There might also be changes to job roles and team structures.
It is natural for there to be an element of resistance to change. This is human nature and occurs across the vast majority of business change including the introduction of new risk management systems.
I have witnessed clients addressing this challenge in a number of different ways and see clear patterns of how to handle this change in such a way as to reduce resistance, both passive and active, and thus improve the likelihood of both the successful implementation of the new system and also the new processes and procedures that accompany the change process.
Here are the six critical factors for successful system implementation and business change:
A clear plan of communication throughout the process is essential, right from the outset when the decision is made to introduce a new system, throughout the introduction process and also post launch until a “business as usual” status is reached.
Communication should be regular and timely, and use the media that are accessed by the various different groups within the organisation. The audience may also include third party vendors and other stakeholders, and messages may need to be tailored to each group.
3. Change agents
Support your teams by recruit a team of people who are positive towards the change and who can drive engagement throughout the organisation. They may not be particularly senior; in fact it is often better if they themselves are also at the “coal face”.
Brief these people, train them and make them ambassadors for the programme that you are undertaking so that they can act as change agents to work with employees to address their questions, concerns and anxieties.
Develop training that is specific to the roles of the various different people and deliver this prior to implementation. Make the format relevant to the participant’s role and, above all, make it interesting!
The training may be a one-off or it may be a series of events, but try to keep it short and focussed, so that employees are not stressed by having to be away from their desk for long periods and therefore losing productivity.
It is also good practice to provide ongoing learning support via a knowledge portal, handbooks and manuals to act as reference points for people once the training has taken place.
Encourage feedback throughout the process, from the initial engagement right the way through to the training and testing. Listen and act on those suggestions that you think are good and let people know that you have acted upon their ideas.
Where it is not possible to implement some, or perhaps the timing is not yet right, communicating this back with help lower resistance as people feel they are being listened to and their concerns and suggestions are considered.
6. Ongoing support
Continue the support to help people once the implementation has gone live, providing communications, addressing any teething problems, running any additional training if required and interventions with people who are having issues. The change agents can play an important part in this process. It seems most effect when all the above is kept in place until the new system has become “business as usual”.
I have only witnessed one situation, quite some time ago, when the team at the “coal face” was able to completely derail the introduction of new IT systems, to such an extent that the programme was eventually shelved, at some cost to the business, not just financially but also in terms of loss of operational efficiency.
In our experience, the organisations that undertake a considered and thorough approach to managing the process of change find that resistance is quickly reduced, implementation is smoother and the business derives a far greater benefit in a much shorter timeframe.